Van has finished reading… The Last Words Of Madeleine Anderson by Helen Kitson

2 Nov

last words of madeleine anderson

Twenty years after the publication of her only novel – a book hailed as a work of genius – Gabrielle Price’s literary star has dimmed. Now living an unremarkable life in the village she grew up in, Gabrielle is middle-aged, working as a housekeeper for the local vicar, surrounded by memories of her best friend Madeleine, who died young in tragic and mysterious circumstances. When Gabrielle receives a letter from a fan she has no idea that her responding on a whim will turn her quiet life inside out.


How does your self-portrait look? In the he-said-she-said retelling of the major points in your life how do you come across? We can’t help being the hero in our own story, though if we were more honest with ourselves we might better settle for the term protagonist. I’ve never been a fan of the term unreliable narrator. To me it’s more suggestive of a habitual or flagrant liar when the truth of the character generally proves to be far more human – someone who is prone to bend the truth to fit their worldview. For the subterfuge to work we as the reader need to buy in to the fiction so it helps a great deal if the character is likeable, someone we want to believe. The testament to how well-written The Last Words Of Madeleine Anderson is rests in the fact that Gabrielle Price, while not necessarily likeable, is whole-heartedly believable. There’s a level of honesty that’s brutal, almost self-destructive, and the glow of that openness spreads over everything we see. It’s beautifully done. No big pointy arrows or cabaret cloaks, just room for all these little doubts to grow in.

I love the make-up of the cast in Helen Kitson’s The Last Words of Madeleine Anderson. It’s a cast that’s as spare as the writing, but each character pulls their weight and if you’ve ever spent any time around writers, readers or book groups I’m sure there’ll be a flicker or two of the eyebrows as you recognise some old acquaintances! If you’re a fan of Barbara Pym I think you’ll tap into an extra layer of understanding as there’s a good deal of Pym referenced. If you’re not, I suspect you’ll be off to the library or bookshop to rustle up a copy of Excellent Women, as I’m about to.

Helen Kitson’s The Last Words Of Madeleine Anderson is a tense and claustrophobic study of obsession, isolation, blame and retribution. It’s a quiet explosion of a story, contained mayhem that unravels through cause and effect, with an ending that’ll leave you gasping for air.


The Last Words Of Madeleine Anderson will be published by Louise Walters Books on the 7th march 2019 ISBN:9781999780951

You can find Helen on Twitter @Jemima_Mae_7

My thanks to Louise Walters for allowing me to review this book.


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